I woke up around 7 am after a solid 9 hours of much-needed sleep. Feeling a lot better, I began to notice more about our bunk-mates on the lower beds (we had chosen the upper bunks as they were about 20% cheaper). There was a young mom and 3-year-old son sharing a bunk, and a roughly 30-year-old women in the other. The cute little boy didn’t cry or make a fuss at all, which was absolutely amazing.
The other lady spoke English, so she helped us order our “included meal” (a very small portion of pancakes or oatmeal, probably 1/2 a Western portion size). She also asked why we were visiting this part of Russia, very surprised that we said “for pleasure and interest”. I think she had a big sister instinct thinking about us, so when we got to the station at 8 am, she offered to show us the direction to our hostel (3 min outside of the train station).
After getting an early check-in to our rooms at Hostel U Vokzala (vokzala refers to station, appropriate for its location) and a quick flip through our guide book, we were off. Since the closest part of downtown was a 20-minute walk away, we decided to skip taking transit and explore by walking. We first walked by the outside of the train station again, another grand-looking building.
And the monument to the founder of the city.
But, we needed our morning sugar rush, and picked up what I would call a massive cookie with jam filling in the center at the supermarket. This type of dessert has been popular, sold at most supermarkets and convenience stores.
We began our walk towards downtown through a long park which stretched all the way towards the river (the end of downtown).
There was a section of beautiful sculptures.
And then we stopped at the city’s central market where we bought sealed smoked salmon for the next day’s train ride. We paid about $5 CAD for 2 meals worth. And it ended up being so tasty!
Afterwards, we made our way to one of the city’s famous local attractions, Lenin Square, named rightly so because of the Lenin statue overlooking the square from across the street.
In the square itself, I had a good laugh at Chinese tourists trying to get the pigeons to pose with them.
The square itself was charming, and a great place for people-watching.
Looking at my Google Maps, as I’m quite obsessed with (I like knowing where I am visually on a map!), I saw a shop labeled “dessert” nearby. Mayesha and I were instantly curious. As can be seen, dessert is clearly a priority in our travels. The shop didn’t disappoint, with about 8 display counters absolutely full of cakes and cookies galore.
After making my selection (3 cookies, a walnut cake bite, and a small chocolate trifle), we were off again to continue wandering. I took some nice shots of the buildings on the main street downtown.
It was now lunch time, and we started poking our heads into cafes and restaurants looking for something at the right price point. We were intrigued when we saw waiters dressed up as jesters serving at a nice outdoor patio. It turned out to be a pizza place with an awesome theme to match.
Feeling very satisfied, we began to head to the riverfront of the Amur River, the named after one of the founders of the city.
Since it was a Sunday, we had a great time watching the locals enjoy their day off, again most of them wearing jeans. We then walked back towards downtown to take a look at a church located in another of the city’s main squares. I really appreciated the beatiful blue hue of the lower part of the domes.
In the distance, about 15 minutes walk from the city center, we could see another nice church and made it our mission to walk over.
And just next to it, we were surprised to encounter an extremely impressive WWII Memorial, the first of many we would continue to see (excuse the crooked photograph).
Once we got back to the center of the city, we were tired from the large amount of walking and stopped at a nice cafe to grab a coffee.
And then for dinner, we found a cheap fast food place to get $4 set meals. The menu was entirely in Russian so by necessity, this was when I discovered that the “picture translate” function on Google Translate works very well. Either you upload a picture of Russian text, or you hold your camera over Russian text to get a live translation. The live feature is hit or miss, but most of the time you can catch the gist of a phrase or menu item.
By this time, we were both really tired, and took an 8 minute bus ride back to the train station in order to do our grocery shopping for the long 57-hour train ride ahead. I saw the coolest ketchup that I would love to try at some point! But too bad it was so big. Ever heard of walnut and dill ketchup?
My haul for the trip, with prices in case anyone is curious, is as follows:
-3 small prepared salads, $1 each
-A medium-sized case of the best cherry tomatoes of my life, $1.25
-5 small cucumbers, $1
-2 large apples, $1.50
-2 pear-apples, $1
-Spicy dijon mustard (small), $0.50
-Large (600 ml) kefir, $1.50
-3 large carrots, $1
So the prices were extremely reasonable! And I had also already had/brought from Canada:
-Cookies and cake from the bakery that day
-Granola bars, oatmeal, and nuts from home
-Salmon from earlier in the day
After washing the fruit and veggies, we were exhausted and off to bed.